By Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Jeanne Dodds, Creative Engagement Director, Endangered Species Coalition, and Janice Kasper, Visual Artist
There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left. Without action, we will lose this unique species forever. The biggest threats faced by right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear- both of which are accidental, and preventable. The US National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing new rules to reduce the accidental entanglement of right whales in US fishing gear, which received unanimous support by representatives of the lobster industry and right whale scientists during a meeting of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team last April. However, before any new measures are put in place, the National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking input from the public.
There are two important and valuable ways you can participate in this process. One: attend a scheduled scoping hearings and give your comments in person. Find the scoping meeting nearest you here.
Before attending, you can preview the presentation NOAA is giving at the scoping meetings to help you prepare to speak.
Slide 38 in particular provides guidance on giving comments (including tips such as you will be limited to 3 minutes, be respectful and polite, and more). To connect with others participating in the meetings, you can join in the scoping meeting Facebook group.
Two: Download, print and mail a postcard to share your comments about the importance of right whale conservation with the National Marine Fisheries Service by September 16th. Personalized, mailed comments are especially important and impactful. When you send your postcard asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to support North Atlantic right whale recovery be sure to include requests such as: reduce the amount of vertical line now used in fisheries; increase survey effort in US waters to identify right whale habitats; create a protected area for right whales south of Nantucket; and invest in research to develop alternative types of fishing gear which will not entangle whales. See links at the bottom of this post for a supporting journal article for more information on economic data.
The downloadable postcard features a painting of a North Atlantic right whale, created and contributed by visual artist Janice Kasper. She explains, “Artists can use their work as a form of communication. I feel that, for me, it is the best way to express my feelings and concerns about an issue. There are too few right whales and we must do everything possible to protect our fellow creatures.”
If it’s not possible for you to attend a meeting in person or send a postcard, please take action supporting North Atlantic Right Whale conservation by submitting a comment online following the instructions on this page.
Thank you for taking one or more of these actions for North Atlantic right whale conservation!
1.Read this 2019 study to see more information and data indicating that trap reductions would not necessarily cause an economic impact on the fishing community, opening up opportunities for reducing risk to northern right whales at no cost to the industry:
Meyers et al. 2007, Univ. of Plymouth. 2019)
2. Conservation Law Foundation is providing a sign up for those attending the scoping meetings. By signing up, you’ll receive talking points for the meetings and support feeling comfortable attending and speaking. http://action.clf.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=7386
3. If you are not able to sign up in advance, representatives from the right whale conservation community will be present at all of the scoping hearings and can provide in person support. All meetings run from 6:00-9:00 pm ET. For the complete list of meeting dates and locations, please visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/02/2019-16487/atlantic-large-whale-take-reduction-plan-modifications-to-reduce-serious-injury-and-mortality-of
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